The devastating wildfire season in Australia that stretched from last July through March impacted far more animals than previously estimated, scientists said Tuesday in a new report.
The fires caused widespread destruction and mass evacuations in the eastern part of the country towards the end of 2019, killing 33 people in all and destroying more than 3,000 homes.
But the toll on animals was far more devastating, according to a report commission by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). Nearly 3 billion animals — including mammals, reptiles, birds, and frogs — were killed or displaced during the bushfire season.
“The interim findings are shocking,” WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said in a statement. “It’s hard to think of another event anywhere in the world in living memory that has killed or displaced that many animals. This ranks as one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history.”
In the interim report, 143 million mammals, 2.46 billion reptiles, 180 million birds, and 51 million frogs are believed to have been impacted, which is almost three times an earlier estimate released in January.
“When you think about nearly 3 billion native animals being in the path of the fires it is absolutely huge. It’s a difficult number to comprehend,” said University of Sydney Professor Chris Dickman, the scientist overseeing the project by 10 scientists from Australian universities.
Scientists cannot come to a firm number on how many animals may have perished in the flames. According to Dickman, the prospects for animals that escaped the flames were “probably not that great” because of a lack of food and shelter in addition to being forced into habitat already occupied.
The earlier report from January, scientists only focused on the states of New South Wales and Victoria. New South Wales, which sits on the east coast of Australia and is home to the city of Sydney, was the worst affected state in the country during the last bushfire season, but there were fires recorded in every Australian state.
Lily Van Eeden, who is leading the project, said the latest estimates takes in a much larger area about 11.46 million hectares, an area around the size of England.
“We believe a continent-wide assessment of the number of animals that might be impacted has never been done in Australia before or anywhere else in the world,” Van Eeden said in a statement. “Other nations can build upon this research to improve understanding of bushfire impacts everywhere.”
While the final report will be completed by the end of August 2020, recommendations in the interim report include identifying and protecting unburnt habitat crucial to threatened species, improving fire prevention and management, and establishing rapid response teams to help species impacted by fires.
Australia’s government has pledged some $35 million to wildlife and habitat recovery, but environmentalists have called on the country to strengthen conservation laws, according to the BBC.
A royal commission inquiry into the fires is due to report its findings in October.
The fires began causing widespread destruction toward the end of 2019, which was both the hottest and driest year in Australia’s recorded history, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. Authorities told Fox News at the time the blazes were the perfect storm of a number of disturbing factors.
The blazes damaged World Heritage Areas, including the Blue Mountains and the Gondwana rainforests in New South Wales and Queensland, officials said.
More than 200 U.S. firefighters were sent to Australia to fight bushfires for the first time since 2010. Six firefighters were killed in New South Wales battling the blazes, including three Americans, who died when their C-130 Hercules water tanker plane crashed in January.
The NSW Rural Fire Service described the season as “very traumatic, exhausting and anxious” while reporting the blazes had been contained thanks in part to torrential rain, that also brought major flooding, damaging winds, and dangerous surf.
Australian authorities have declared that they are doing “everything possible” to fight coronavirus outbreaks in aged care facilities in the state of Victoria.
As of Wednesday, there were 804 active cases relating to outbreaks across aged care facilities in Victoria, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared the situation a “health crisis” on Tuesday in a press conference.
Nick Coatsworth, the deputy chief medical officer (CMO), said on Wednesday that governments across the country have committed resources to help fight the outbreaks in more than 80 facilities.
“I can tell you that as of today, everything possible is being done,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) television.
“Now, the numbers of cases in some facilities is substantial and that is going to take some time to get on top of, but we have seen that there is an Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) going down there of clinical leaders to help with that leadership gap that we have got.”
St Basil’s Home for the Aged, a nursing home in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, has been identified as one of the hardest-hit facilities with nine deaths. And so far, 89 cases have been linked to the facility, according to the update from the Department of Health and Human Services in Victoria on Wednesday.
Families of residents at the facility have complained that they waited days for information from the facility about the conditions of their relatives.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has called for a royal commission into the aged care crisis while Alison McMillan, Australia’s chief nursing and midwifery officer, has said she has “considerable concerns” about the care given to residents at St Basil’s.
“On Sunday I went in and we added additional resources to that facility as we were moving significant numbers out as well,” she told ABC radio on Wednesday.
“I acknowledge that there were some occasions where care wasn’t as good as I would want to see.”
Despite a sharp rise in unemployment related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, personal and business bankruptcy filings fell 11.8 percent for the 12-month period ending June 30, 2020, according to statistics released by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Annual bankruptcy filings totaled 682,363, compared with 773,361 cases in the year ending June 2019.
Business filings remained virtually identical to a year before, at 22,482. However, non-business bankruptcy filings fell by 12.1 percent, to 659,881 in the year ending June 30, 2020, compared with 750,878 in the year ending June 2019.
Bankruptcy filings tend to escalate gradually after an economic downturn starts. Following the Great Recession, new filings escalated over a two-year period until they peaked in 2010.
Some filing activity also may have been affected by pandemic-related disruptions to bankruptcy courts, many of which have limited public building access since mid-March.
Economic conditions in China have changed dramatically over the past six months. The COVID-19 pandemic and measures taken to contain it have triggered a combined demand and supply shock. While supply side constraints have eased, weak domestic and external demand continues to restrain the pace of recovery, despite the measures taken to contain the economic fallout. But with good policies, the recovery poses opportunities to further inclusive, sustainable, and greener growth, according to Leaning Forward – COVID-19 and China’s Reform Agenda, the World Bank’s China Economic Update for July 2020.
The report projects that economic growth in China will slow sharply to 1.6 percent this year–marking the slowest expansion since 1976–before rebounding to 7.9 percent in 2021. Even as economic activity rebounds, the pace of China’s poverty reduction is expected to slow, reflecting slower growth in household incomes. Without additional policy measures, 8-20 million fewer people are projected to escape poverty in 2020, compared to pre-pandemic projections.
Risks to China’s economic outlook are unusually high. On the downside, recurrent COVID-19 flareups could continue to disrupt economic activity, despite efforts to suppress the spread of the virus. Externally, a deeper and more protracted global recession and escalating bilateral tensions between China and some of its main trading partners could also derail the recovery. On the upside, the downturn could be less severe if domestic and global confidence recover faster than anticipated, and if economic tensions de-escalate.
“While risks are exceptionally high, they can be partially mitigated by good policies,” said Martin Raiser World Bank Country Director for China. “The pandemic shock has exposed deeply connected economic, social, and environmental fragilities, further increasing the urgency of rebalancing the economy toward more inclusive, sustainable, and greener growth. The recovery offers an opportunity to accelerate progress towards these goals.”
Policymakers will need to ensure monetary and financial sector policies remain flexible to provide abundant liquidity and keep market rates and bond yields low, easing the debt burden on households, firms, and governments. Fiscal policies will need to play a critical role in supporting the recovery. Stimulus measures should be designed in a way that contributes to achieving more inclusive, carbon-neutral, and greener growth.
“The pandemic has amplified the need to close gaps in China’s social safety nets both to support distressed workers and households, and to help minimize the lasting weakness of domestic consumption,” said Sebastian Eckardt, World Bank Lead Economist for China.
Enhancing market competition and reform of the hukou (household residency registration) system could help unleash a stronger market response, facilitate adjustment to post-COVID-19 economic realities, and support China’s longer-term growth prospects, according to the report.
Human trafficking is a problem in Malawi, with teenage boys forced to work as farm laborer’s, and young women to sexual exploitation in nightclubs or bars. The UN is supporting the Malawian governments to end the practice and protect vulnerable people.
The six men from Nepal believed they were heading to the United States for work. Instead, after a long journey which took them through six countries, they arrived in Malawi. They were locked in a house and their passports were taken away.
A husband and wife were offered lucrative jobs on a tobacco estate in neighboring Zambia. Once there, they were treated badly, deprived of food, and not paid at the end of their contract.
But the job turned out to be very different from what they expected – they were forced into prostitution.
All these people were victims of human trafficking.
Malawi is also a transit country for victims of trafficking who are taken to other African countries, including South Africa, Tanzania, and Mozambique, and to parts of Europe.
“The Government of Malawi accepts that more needs to be done to tackle this crime and there are gaps in the current approach,” says Maxwell Matewere, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) National Project Officer on Trafficking in Persons. “It also appreciates the expertise that we can offer,” he adds.
Following a request from the Ministry of Homeland Security for support in the implementation of the national Trafficking in Persons Act, which was developed with the assistance of UNODC, Mr. Matewere recently spent three weeks mentoring law enforcement officers.
“The on-site coaching took place in Blantyre, Phalombe and Mchinji. These are the regions of the country with the highest prevalence of trafficking,” he says.
During the sessions, the UNODC expert reviewed cases to establish whether the law enforcement and protection officers had followed the correct procedures.
“We did discover that in many cases this had not happened, but it was encouraging to see the commitment of the participants,” says Maxwell Matewere. “They are all determined to improve on the areas of weakness we identified and learn from our expertise.”
Officials who are responsible for responding to human trafficking, investigating cases, supporting victims, and prosecuting the perpetrators took part.
“I learnt about the required standards and procedures we must follow when providing assistance to the victims of trafficking,” explains Stephano Joseph, the District Social Welfare Officer for Blantyre. “So, I will follow these now in my work.”
Caleb Ng’ombo, Coordinator for the Blantyre District Inter-agency Committee against Trafficking in Persons, says there are a number of lessons he learnt during the mentoring including the significance of putting the needs and rights of the victims at the forefront.
“I heard about the importance of supporting the victims to minimize the risks of retraumatizing them, which can happen during criminal proceedings.”
Advice on ongoing cases was also provided, which has already led to positive results.
“I’m receiving reports from some participants who have managed to successfully and properly identify victims of trafficking based on the learnings from the mentorship,” says Mr. Matewere. “Based on the guidance I gave; 52 Malawian victims of human trafficking have been rescued and five suspects have been arrested. There are five different cases. Three of the cases of trafficking were detected during my coaching and with my technical support”.
“In the other two, the police were not sure if the people involved were actually victims of human trafficking. I helped them with information how similar cases have been interpreted in other jurisdictions to confirm that they were indeed victims.”
“One case involves 28 victims of sexual exploitation. In another case, there are eight victims of forced labor. They were made to work on a farm for many months without any payment and also working for long hours. They were basically working as slaves. Six further people were rescued in transit to a destination where they would have been exploited in the commercial sex industry.”
“The other two cases involve trafficking for forced or arranged marriage. One girl who was rescued is 13 and pregnant. She is now living in a shelter. Other vulnerable victims are also in shelters, while others have been returned to their homes.”
Over the past two years, UNODC, through its Global Program against Trafficking in Persons and with the support of the United Kingdom, has assisted Malawi in its efforts to combat human trafficking.
National strategies have been strengthened, legal frameworks brought in line with international standards and the country’s system to assist and protect victims has been improved.
The mentoring has had an immediate impact as the officials who took part are already using their newly acquired skills and knowledge.
Five people including four police personnel were injured when a bomb exploded at Pallabi police station in Dhaka on Wednesday morning, officials said.
The incident took place at around 6 a.m., when officer-in-charge of the police station was interrogating three terrorists, a senior police official told IANS.
Police said that the explosion occurred from a weight machine.
Officer-in-charge (Investigation) of the police station and another three cops were injured in the blast.
Police suspect extremists’ links behind explosion in the capital and a bomb-like substance was recovered.
Additional Police Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan, Krishna Pada Roy said, “No militancy links have been traced yet.”
The police have recovered the weight machine and bomb from three persons in the morning.
Roy said, “An explosion occurred inside the police station when the bomb disposal unit was working, leaving four cops and a boy injured. The arrested are being interrogated. Till now no link was traced, but it is suspected that they might have terrorist link.”
He added, “August has always been alarming month for us, as bombings in August 1975 and 2004, have rocked the country.”
A criminal gang based in Mirpur is active, who can carry out this terrorist activities, police official said.
Naldanga police station OC Nazrul Islam said, “A team has recovered a bomb-like object from Kalshi graveyard earlier in the morning. They brought it to the police station. We informed a bomb disposal unit to neutralize it. However, it exploded before the unit could reach the police station.”
Two of the injured police officials have been shifted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital and one at National Eye Institute. Two others were given first aid.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal on Tuesday evening told IANS: “Everything is under watch. There is nothing to be worried about.”
Soon after the explosion, people were evacuated from the vicinity and the shops were closed by the police authority after 11 a.m.
On July 19, Police Headquarters issued a letter regarding a possible attack by members of the so-called Islamic State (IS) just ahead of Eid in the name of their so-called mission “Bengal Uliyah” or “Bengal Khilafat,” and alerted all the district SPs and other respective units.
In the letter, 3 embassies, international airports, Ahmadiyya and Shia community mosques, temples, pagodas, churches, policemen, police vehicles, and police infrastructure were mentioned as the possible targets of militants.
German police investigating the disappearance of British girl Madeleine McCann in Portugal in 2007 searched a garden plot Tuesday in the northern city of Hannover in connection with their probe, prosecutors said.
Julia Meyer, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig confirmed local media reports that police investigators had been at the site since Monday with an excavator in connection with the case.
Investigators with shovels and rakes could be seen on the plot putting possible evidence into plastic bags. Some were wearing white overalls and others were guiding a sniffer dog across the plot, German news agency dpa reported.
“The procedure is taking place in connection with our investigation regarding Maddie McCann,” Meyer told The Associated Press.
Meyer said she could not give any further details on the procedure, adding only that police would “still need some more time to finish.”
McCann was 3 at the time of her 2007 disappearance from an apartment while her family vacationed in the seaside town of Praia da Luz in Portugal’s Algarve region.
German authorities said last month they had identified a 43-year-old German citizen as a suspect in the McCann case and are investigating him on suspicion of murder.
The suspect, who is currently in prison in Germany, spent many years in Portugal, including in Praia da Luz around the time of McCann’s disappearance, and has two previous convictions for “sexual contact with girls,” authorities have said.
Authorities have not released the suspect’s name, but he has been widely identified by German media as Christian B.
He was last registered living in Germany in the city of Braunschweig, which is about 70 kilometers (40 miles) from Hannover. Between 2013 and 2015, the suspect spent time in both Portugal and Germany. He ran a kiosk in Braunschweig and also lived in Hannover for several years, dpa reported.
Coronavirus infections in India passed 1.5 million and deaths neared 35,000 on Wednesday, but test results in Mumbai cast further doubt on official data in the world’s second-most populous nation.
Even as case numbers soar and more areas impose lockdowns, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said this week India was in a “better position that other countries” and winning international praise.
The health ministry website — which no longer includes total infections as the government puts more emphasis on recoveries — on Wednesday reported almost 50,000 new infections and 768 more deaths.
The South Asian giant, home to some of the world’s most crowded cities and where healthcare spending per capita is among the world’s lowest, passed one million cases only 12 days earlier.
But many experts have said India is not testing enough people, and that many coronavirus-linked deaths are not being recorded as such.
A study released Tuesday that tested for coronavirus antibodies reported some 57 percent of people in Mumbai’s teeming slums have had the infection — far more than official data suggests.
The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research’s Ullas S. Kolthur, who was involved in carrying out the survey, said he was surprised by the results.
“At least in the slums, we think it is largely because social distancing wouldn’t work simply because of the population density,” Kolthur told AFP.
Last week a similar study indicated that almost a quarter of people in the capital, New Delhi, have had the virus — almost 40 times the official total.
There are, however, also doubts about the accuracy of such tests, since other coronaviruses — not just the novel Covid-19 — may also produce antibodies that could give a false positive result.
The Mumbai survey also covered a relatively small sample of around 7,000 people.
India now has the third-highest number of cases in the world behind the United States and Brazil, although the official number of deaths in the South Asian nation is far lower.
As a proportion of its population, India also lags behind, with only 1,110 cases per million population compared to 13,148 for the United States, according to an AFP tally.
Pakistan is moving forward in the leadership of Imran Khan and here is a list compiled by Arif Khan.
Late last week, Pak’s nuclear safety standards acknowledged at the highest international level. Overall Pakistan ranked 19 with 47 points, while India ranked one place below at 20th spot with 41 points.
Pakistan’s passport got a significant improvement from last year. Pak passport now ranked at 192 in the Individual Passport Power Ranking (IPPR) 2020, up by six places from 2019.
Ease of doing business jumped 28 spots last year, with Govt actively taking steps more such jumps are expected in the upcoming report.
In fact, Pakistan landed among the world’s top 10 business climate improvers as per a World Bank study: Then on FP policy front, PM Imran Khan contacted Bangladesh premier in an effort to start a new era of the bilateral relations between the two nations.
Balance of relationships in South Asia has changed as India is moving towards isolation. Indicating a beginning of a positive trend in Pakistan-Bangladesh relations: Pakistan’s decade-old stance got vindicated as latest UN report slams India for its anti-Pakistan terrorist bases in Afghanistan!
Nation got glimpses of #SingleNationalCurriculum, one of Imran Khan’s major election promises and his longtime dream. Lots of positive is expected from this initiative which aims to provide coming generations with equal & fair education standards.
Last and not the least, Pakistan is on the brink of winning battle against Covid-19! Country is at lowest death rate in 3 months and we now rank 25 on global Active Cases list. Nation is urged to follow strict SOP during upcoming Eid.
The COVID-19 pandemic apparently is not discouraging as many visitors as previously expected, but home rentals, campground spaces and hotel rooms remain available for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that starts Aug. 7.
“It’s the 80th rally, so people are coming,” said Kimberly Roberts, owner of Kickstands Campground and Venue outside Sturgis.
Roberts said some primitive tent camping and self-contained RV spaces are still open because of cancellations, but full-service RV spots are full.
“This is our fourth rally. What’s different I’m noticing is people are trickling in. People are showing up,” she said.
Gina Huiet, manager of Sturgis RV Park in Sturgis, said that park is usually fully booked by October for the following summer’s rally. The park rents sites for five or 10 days at a time. As of Friday, the park had some openings because Canadian travelers were forced to cancel due to COVID-19 border closures.
“Yes, I have had some people cancel because of COVID-19, but all those spots, we’ve booked them,” Huiet said. “People are coming anyway.”
“We do have an overflow camping lot. We do allow one- and two-night stays for motorcycles and tents. We’ve never filled it up before, but it could happen this year,” she said. “All those people that waited until the last minute, the only good thing about COVID-19 is it opened a rally spot for you.”
As of Friday, sturgis.com still listed a variety of rentals open throughout the Black Hills. Options ranged from high-end luxury homes to rustic cabins and campsites.
Meanwhile this week, Airbnb.com shows its rentals throughout the Black Hills are 81% booked during the rally. Several entire houses for rent during the rally have not yet been reserved.
Julie Schmitz Jensen, executive director of Visit Rapid City, said she’s optimistic about visitor numbers this summer.
“Nothing about this year is normal, but I think there are some that had already made reservations, and some are still contemplating reservations,” Jensen said. “We all know things could change overnight; we’re keeping our fingers crossed.”
By mid-July, she said Rapid City area hotels, motels and campgrounds were reporting between 65% and 85% reservation rates during the rally, with the two weekends being more booked than midweek.
“There have been some cancellations recently because some states are implementing stay-at-home rules. … I’m not seeing that as a huge trend yet,” Jensen said. “Canadians have always been a really big part of the rally market so (with the border closure) Canadian numbers are either nonexistent or way down.
“We’re all dipping our toes into regional marketing. We’re not telling the world to come visit this summer. We are telling (those who are within driving distance) we are open, we are safe, we are following all the Centers for Disease Control regulations,” Jensen said. “We are coming back up. We’re aren’t out of the hole yet, but we are getting back. … We’re getting a lot of interest.”
Meanwhile, at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip, last-minute guests are always invited.
“We always have room at the Chip for more people and this year is no different,” said Buffalo Chip founder and President Rod Woodruff. “We’d welcome anybody that makes up their mind at the last minute. We always have a lot of people who make up their minds at the last minute.”
The Buffalo Chip has RV sites and primitive camping sites available. Cabins there are fully booked. The Buffalo Chip also rents campers and if it runs out will work with a camper company to bring in more from out of state. The Buffalo Chip also has added a new garage and will have mechanics on site to help visitors whose motorcycles break down.
“We always have room for another million,” Woodruff said. “We’re conscious of COVID-19 so we’re changing the amphitheaters (for the concerts) to accommodate for COVID, but we still have room for people.”
Reservations have been increasing for the past couple of months, he said.
“South Dakota has fresh air, lots of space, beautiful roads, nice little mountains and wide-open prairies” that visitors love, Woodruff said. “People are wanting to get back to living a normal life and we’re sitting pretty well out here. … It’s good to see people getting out and goofing off.”
Woodruff said he’ll encourage people to “goof off responsibly” and take precautions, but at the Buffalo Chip everyone’s going to focus on fun.
“We call it partying like it’s 1982. The folks that are worried about COVID-19 aren’t going to come. The people that are coming are coming to have a good time, see other people and socialize,” he said.
As many as 41 of the 73 poorest countries in the world have officially proposed to have their debt rescheduled according to an initiative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Measures to support the poor have been implemented by many international organizations and countries, in order to help the most vulnerable people overcome the “COVID-19 storm”.
The world-wide picture of poverty is gloomy, as the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening to pull back the achievements in global poverty reduction. The proportion of the extreme poor in 2020 is forecast to increase for the first time since 1998, to 29.7%. The percentage of the world’s population earning less than US$ 1.9 a day is expected to increase from 8.2% in 2019 to 8.8% this year.
The United Nations has acknowledged that while the world is not really “on track” to end extreme poverty by 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN, the COVID-19 pandemic has pulled back the progresses made over the years.
According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), in the context of a record high unemployment rate, about 100 million people could fall into extreme poverty this year, 1.4 billion children will be affected due to school closures. The global human development index, for the first time, has declined for the first time it was introduced.
Numerous households are likely to fall into poverty due to the loss of income and employment, making many countries and regions struggle further to fight poverty. The World Bank warns that India may have to witness its achievements in the 2011-2015 period reversed.
Nearly half of India’s population is vulnerable, with consumption close to the poverty line and 90% of informal workers facing difficult conditions. The Indian government’s US$270 billion stimulus package has only had a limited financial impact and has not been able to provide much assistance to those who lost their livelihoods due to the epidemic.
According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL), 230 million people, or 36.5% of the region’s population, will suffer from poverty this year, an increase of more than 45 million compared to 2019. The Latin American and Caribbean economies are forecast to contract by 9.1%, the most severe recession in a century.
This has led to an increase in extreme poverty and inequality. CEPAL has forecasted that the unemployment rate will increase to 13.5% by the end of this year, meaning that 44 million people will be unemployed. It has been warned that these negative factors will lead to the worst social crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean in decades, widening social inequality.
In Africa, nearly 50 million people are at risk of falling into extreme poverty. According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), about 30% of the continent’s population is now living below the poverty line, although after Oceania, Africa is least affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The worst scenario so far forecasted by the AfDB is that between 28.2 million and 49.2 million Africans will fall into extreme poverty this and next year. Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, is forecast to witness the highest number of extremely poor people this year at between 8.5 million and 11.5 million out of the country’s 200 million people.
In order to contribute to creating a fiscal foundation to help countries support the livelihoods of people, since March, the IMF has provided about US$25 billion to 72 countries under the emergency funding program without the usual conditions being applied. In mid-April, the G20 and the Paris Club also agreed on a debt service suspension initiative (the “DSSI”) for the poorest countries in 2020.
The epidemic has resulted in an unprecedented socio-economic crisis that is threatening the lives and livelihoods of many around the world as well as posing a great challenge to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
However, this is also a time for policymakers to consider green strategies and to build a better and more equal world. The current challenge is also considered a “motivation” for countries to find new directions and open new doors to help the poor have sustainable livelihoods.